Some free career resources from the Toronto Public Library

“The best things in life are free.” If you have a Toronto Public Library (TPL) card, this adage is true when it comes to some of the best ways to boost your career.

TPL provides access to helpful resources for searching for a job, refining your resume, and boosting your skills and knowledge.

Career-related workshops

The current edition of TPL’s What’s On publication lists some career and resume-focused sessions at library branches. They cover:

  • An introduction to LinkedIn
  • Job market opportunities
  • Resume writing and critiquing
  • Improving interview skills
  • Networking and job search tactics for newcomers to Canada

resources

Online education at lynda.com

LyndaTPL card holders have access to lynda.com for free. Lynda.com provides “over 3,500 video tutorial courses led by experts on web design, software development, photography, business skills, home and small office, project management, 3D + Animation, graphic design audio, music, video editing and more.” This perk gets you a Premium monthly membership, which has a value of $29.99 Canadian per month.

Completing courses at lynda.com can increase your knowledge of tasks you’re doing on-the-job or that you’re curious about, impress your boss, and boost your resume or LinkedIn profile.

Need a library card?

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month, so there’s no better time to get or renew your card. Further to the TPL resources listed above, the other benefits of having a library card are numerous. You can get a TPL card if you live, work, go to school or own property in Toronto. Learn more about getting a card here.

Photo credits: Laine Jaremey; Lynda.com.

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Stand out with these 3 traits

A resume can get your foot in the door when you’re looking for a job. But, oftentimes hiring managers want a new hire to fulfill criteria that can’t be expressed on paper. Why? These traits will help hiring managers ensure that the candidate will benefit the organization in ways that go beyond just fulfilling their role.

What are employers looking for when they hire someone new? Emily Heward, co-founder of branding agency Red Antler, explains the top things she looks for in the video from Inc.com, available here.

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What are the three traits she looks for?

  1. Enthusiasm about your industry, your work and the company
  2. The ability to ask thoughtful, challenging questions
  3. Kindness

You can demonstrate these traits to a potential employer in different ways. Try:

  • Before even applying for a job, consider scheduling an informational interview with someone at the organization
  • Carefully crafting a tailored cover letter (learn more about that here)
  • Mindfully conveying these traits in an interview
  • Sending a thank you email or hand-written note after an informational interview or formal interview

Do you agree with the top traits that Emily Heward suggests?

What other ways could you express these traits?

Photo credits: Pixabay.com; Inc.com.

When searching for a job, what’s in a name?

I recently heard about a new process in Canada’s federal government that will help reduce bias around who is contacted following a job application in an interview on Toronto’s Metro Morning.

Six federal departments are piloting a blind recruitment strategy with the goal of increasing equity and diversity in its workforce. This process will remove any identifying information like names and educational institutions from resumes and job applications.

Research on bias in the hiring process reveals the reason behind this project. A research report compiled by Ryerson University and the University of Toronto,  by Dr. Rupa Banerjee, an associate professor at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, uncovered the extent to which these biases impact hiring decisions.

Dr. Banerjee reported that the study found that people with Asian-sounding names (such as Lei Xi or Hina Chaudhry) and Canadian education and work experience receive 42 per cent less call backs than people with Anglo-sounding names (like Greg Johnson or Emily Brown) and the same Canadian education and work experience.

While I was listening to the interview, I was curious about if researchers had pinpointed why some of the reasons why such biases exist. Dr. Banerjee explained that implicit bias enables people to make quick decisions (it’s important to note that she mentioned that biases don’t necessarily make someone racist). For example, in the study, bias might have impacted hiring managers’ assumptions around a candidate with an Asian-sounding name’s mastery of the English language and ability to assimilate with a workplace’s culture. In reality, we know these things aren’t necessarily linked.

The results of the Government of Canada’s pilot project will provide a recent, Canadian case study on a blind hiring strategy works. Ideally, the makeup of the staff in the six departments will become more diverse as the project goes on. Roles will be filled with the best possible candidates, no matter their names or backgrounds.

If this pilot is successful, I would hope that the practice of blind hiring will spill over to other federal government departments, levels of government, and even the private sector. This would result in the job application process being more fair and equitable for everyone.

What are your thoughts on this blind hiring pilot project?

Photo credit: Pixabay.com.

Why I admire this student’s “dating resume”

Your resume is a critical tool for a job search. It’s usually one of the first impressions of you that a potential employer gets, so it’s appearance, and each word, is important. No surprise here!

Based on resumes that I’ve seen – including my own – I assume that many professional resumes are in a traditional format. Resumes are traditionally documents that are text-heavy and black and white. Often, this style is the convention, and is expected by both job seekers and employers.

That’s why I was impressed when I saw this fun dating resume on Buzzfeed, which was created by Joey Adams, a 21-year-old student at Michigan State University.

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Here are a few reasons why:

He thought differently. Joey Adams applied his resume writing and design skills in a new and unique way – to get a date for formal.

The design is great! It is colourful, provides visual representations of information, and uses impactful headlines. If this were a professional resume, this creative, eye-catching layout would make this resume stand out amongst the resumes of competitors. Depending on the industry you’re in, for example, if you’re in a design or communications-focused industry, taking this type of approach to your resume would also showcase your skills in graphic design and layout.

He knows his target audience. The information in this “dating resume” is tailored to what a potential date might want to know about him. For example, he reports that he’s good at making small talk with parents, he’s skilled at replying to long texts, and he spends time on FaceTime with his mom. I would suspect that he thought critically about the sections and information that dates are interested in before embarking on designing the resume.

Try dipping your toe. You might not want to revamp your entire resume to look like Joey Adams’ “dating resume”. You may not have the design skills (learn more about boosting your skills here), this style may not be appropriate for your industry, or the necessary information in your resume might take up too much space to weave your information into visuals. That’s okay! But, why not try incorporating a few small visual elements into your resume? For example, in the “dating resume”, a small calendar icon and location pin are used under his job title (think emojis), descriptive icons are used in the list of things that make him “Moderately Interesting”, and he uses colour throughout. These simple concepts could be incorporated into a traditional resume to help differentiate it from others.

What do you think about this style of resume? Would you incorporate visual elements into your own professional resume?

Photo credit: Buzzfeed.com.

How to use the right keywords to get your resume past hiring filters

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In some organizations, hiring managers are looking for candidates for several different departments, looking to fill many diverse roles.  Therefore, it would take ages to review all of the resumes manually, and this would result roles not being filled in a timely manner.  As a solution, a tool referred to as a human resources (HR) computer program can help to ‘filter’ the resumes and cover letters that are submitted.  Not only does this save time, but it allows hiring managers ensure that there is a minimum threshold of experience for everyone who moves on in the interview process.

How do these filters work?  Usually, they’re computer algorithms that are based on certain keywords in resumes and cover letters, which are relevant to the experience required for the job.  The good news is that you’ve probably already seen these keywords – they’re typically listed throughout the job description.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail (@Globe_Careers) entitled, How to get your resume past the electronic gatekeepers, shares some insights on how to get your resume past these electronic screening programs.  Here’s an example taken from the article of how a well-qualified candidate may not have been considered had she not incorporated an important keyword into her resume:

“I helped a lady recently who wanted to work as risk analyst in a bank,” Pamela Paterson, a resume coach and author of Get the Job: Optimize Your Resume for the Online Job Search recalled. “She had an MBA, a background in accounting, she was fully qualified for the job. I did a quick keyword search of the word ‘risk’ in the job posting, and it showed up 17 times. Then I went to her resume, and it showed up once, on the second page. That would never get through,” she said.

Some of the key things to remember when you’re writing a resume that will be reviewed by a hiring filter according to the Globe and Mail article are:

  • Highlight the keywords – Make sure the recurring terms in a job description, which include skills, responsibilities, training/certifications, commonly-used abbreviations and action words are used in your resume and cover letter.
  • Keep it simple – Avoid PDFs, use traditional headers, and basic formatting.
  • Time matters – If you’ve had different roles in the same company, treat each as its own job and identify the dates you were in that role. This may be a cue to the filters that you have the required amount of work experience.

What does this all mean?  The approach to writing your resume needs to constantly evolve to reflect new digital tools used in the job search process.

If you’re searching for a similar job at different companies, you can probably work with the same version of your cover letter and resume.  But never assume that a generic resume will get you past the first round of review by the hiring filter and into the hands of a hiring manager.  Take a careful look at the job description for each company, and if that’s not available, a review of the company’s website or online newsroom may provide some hints about the keywords you should be sure to include.

Do you have any tips for incorporating keywords into your resume or cover letter?

“So, you want to be a pubic relations specialist?”

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This question was asked to a fellow student by the career development course instructor at my public relations certificate program after the instructor reviewed a draft of her resume.  A missed “L” in what was supposed to be the word “public” not only implied this student was looking for an entirely different career, but also earned her a failing grade on the resume assignment.

The importance of proofreading:

Not all typos in a resume or cover letter will be so hilarious, but they can all guarantee the same result – a potential employer or manager will question your attention to detail and seriousness about your own career.  Hence the “F” grade in the above example, as the instructor wanted to drive home this key message.

Remember the following tips as you proofread your resume or cover letter:

  • Spelling:  When drafting a resume or cover letter using Pages, Word and even Gmail, these programs provide the luxury of highlighting spelling errors.  On many devices, the software automatically corrects typos for us.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve pretty much stopped using the actual spell check tool.  However, it’s important to do a formal spell check to ensure you don’t become blind to some of the obvious errors.  Remember to check the context of how a word is spelled, as you may have accidentally typed something that’s technically spelled correctly, although you wanted to say something entirely different (for example, the spelling of “Public” and “Pubic” in the above example).
  • Punctuation:  Let’s be honest, no one really knows how to use a semi-colon (;).  That’s okay!  Just don’t pretend you do in your resume or a cover letter.  When in doubt, stick with direct, simple sentences that incorporate action words.  Avoid using confusing phrases with extra commas or dashes that may distract the reader from the overall piece.
  • Proper names:  Remember to double-check proper names.  This may include the name of your high school or university, the name of a company or employer, a reference or even the person you’re addressing the cover letter to.
  • Using numbers:  If possible, avoid starting a sentence with a number, but if you have to, spell it out.  Also, a rule of thumb is to spell the number out if it’s nine or below, and to use the numerical form if the number is 10 or higher.
  • Contact information:  Lastly, make sure you thoroughly check even the taken-for-granted details, including your phone number and email address.  You may have reviewed your resume or cover letter many times, so your eyes may just glaze over your contact information.  It would be a shame if you lost out on a job or volunteer opportunity because the hiring manager couldn’t get in touch to tell you how awesome you are!

As a communications professional, I usually defer to the Canadian Press (CP) Stylebook if I’m unsure of the spelling, Canadian spelling or proper usage of a word or phrase.  The CP Stylebook and other related manuals are available online here.  To quickly confirm a word’s spelling or usage, you can also look it up in a top-tier news outlet, such as the Globe and Mail or National Post to see how these outlets spell or use it.  The journalists and editors at these outlets usually follow the CP Stylebook as well.

What tips do you have for proofreading your resume or cover letter?

Photo credit: Pixabay.com.

Lights, camera… action words

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How do I use verbs to make my resume more compelling?

It’s critical to use action words – or verbs – to bring your resume to life.  A potential employer probably already has an idea of what tasks you may have taken on in a previous role.  So, rather than just listing job duties, using concise and descriptive action words can help you highlight exactly what you did in a job, contributing to the results you (or, you and a team) achieved.  This is a great way to set your resume apart.

Check out how to let your experience shine with action words:

Before:  Listing job duties

  1. Conducted media calls
  2. Arranged media interviews with spokespeople
  3. Monitored for coverage and tracked media impressions

After:  Results-focused statement

  1. Fostered relationships with key media contacts and secured eight top-tier media interviews with company spokespeople; generated over 10 million media impressions, which surpassed the program goal by 2 million

Some examples of action words:

Want to demonstrate how you were analytical, organized or creative?  This list of verbs from the University of Toronto Career Centre can allow you to illustrate your experience and success in these and other skill categories.

Can you think of any other verbs that aren’t included in this list?

Do you have any other suggestions for using action words effectively?